The Word Became Flesh

John 1:1-18

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
March 2021

The last time we were together we looked at one of the greatest prophecies of Jesus in the OT.  We looked at Isaiah 53.  Today, we are going to look at one of the greatest passages in the NT about Jesus.  It is found in the Gospel of John.  John is one of the most popular of the four Gospels.  It is one of my favorite Gospels.

John is a book that we encourage brand new Christians to read.  It is a good book for baby Christians.  A child could read it.  It is easy to read.  It is easy English and easy Greek.  If you have ever read the Greek New Testament, you would know that some of the easiest Greek to read in the NT is the Gospel of John.

John is also a deep Gospel.  Some of the greatest minds in church history have argued about what John meant in this prologue.  Some have called it “the greatest words ever written.”  It is a theological masterpiece.  It is some of the deepest theology found anywhere in the Bible and it was not written by some scholar at Princeton or Harvard in an ivory tower.  It was written by a rough fisherman from Galilee.

In this prologue to John’s Gospel, John tells us who Jesus is.  Why is that important?  Your eternal destiny depends on what you believe about Jesus.  If you have the wrong view about Jesus, you cannot be saved.  Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24 NIV)

One of the most important questions that anyone can ever ask is, who is Jesus? In fact, Jesus asked his own disciples, who people thought he was.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16 NIV).

Times have not changed much, even two thousand years later.  If you ask the same question today, you will get a lot of different answers.  Most of them are wrong.  Many believe that he was just a TEACHER.

He was a good moral teacher.  He was a first century Jewish rabbi known for teaching about loving your neighbor and forgiving your enemies.  He is known for coming up with the Golden Rule.

Islam takes it a step further.  According to Islam, Jesus was not just a teacher or rabbi, he was a PROPHET.  They teach that Jesus should be respected.  He was a miracle worker and he was a prophet.

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus was much more than a prophet.  According to them, he was an ANGEL.  They believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel.  He is much greater than a prophet.  Today, we are going to look at who John says that Jesus is.  John says Jesus is much more than what people today say He is.

John is not giving his own opinion about who Jesus was thousands of years later.  John lived in the first century.  He knew Jesus long before he began his ministry.  John was related to Jesus.  Jesus and John were cousins.

John’s mother was named Salome and she was Mary’s sister (John 19:25; Mark 15:40).  John’s mom would have been Jesus’ aunt.  John not only knew Jesus; he was an eyewitness to His miracles.  He says in I John that he is testifying to things that he had seen, heard and touched (I John 1:1-3)

Five Important Truths about Jesus

Who is Jesus according to John?  Today, we are going to look at who Jesus is in these verses and then we will look at what it has to do with us.  We can’t look at everything in these verses.

We are only going to scratch the surface but today we will look at five truths about Jesus from this prologue of John.  A little warning.  We are going into some deep waters here.  Today, we are going to study some deep theology.  What are five truths about Jesus in this prologue?

1. Jesus is the Word

Jesus is called “The Word” three times in the first verse. In the beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God, and THE WORD was God. We see in the next verse that this Word is a person.  HE was with God in the beginning.  That is John’s unique designation of Jesus.

Only John calls Jesus “the Word.”  Matthew does not call him the Word. Mark does not call him the Word. Luke does not call him the Word. Paul does not call him the Word. John calls him “The Word.”

John calls Jesus “The Word” in the Gospel of John.  He calls Jesus “The Word” in I John.  He calls Jesus “The Word” in The Book of Revelation.   The Greek word is λόγος.  The philosophers of John’s day talked a lot about the λόγος. What does it mean that Jesus is the Word?

The word λόγος has two possible meanings.  It can mean “word” (a spoken word) or it can mean “reason.” (an unspoken thought).  For the Greek philosophers, it meant “reason.”  That is the classical meaning.  The word “logic” comes from the word λόγος.

Aristotle said that λόγος is the quality that separated humans from animals.  We have rational thinking. The Stoics and later Philo identified the λόγος with God and with creation.  The Logos was the divine reason behind creation.

John is not talking about logic or reason.  He is talking about speech.  The background is not Greek philosophy but Hebrew revelation, as F.F. Bruce says.[1]  John is going back to Genesis.  Genesis describes creation by speech. God used his words to create things.  He spoke the universe into existence.  That was God’s method of creation.

God did not have to speak the universe into existence.  He could have just thought or willed the universe into existence, but He chose to speak it into existence. “AND GOD SAID, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  You will find the words “and God said” eight times in Genesis 1 (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26) but λόγος means even more than this.

Words are powerful.  Words are how we express ourselves.   We express ourselves with words.  We communicate with words.  Words communicate people’s thoughts.  We do not just express ourselves with words, we reveal ourselves with words.  Words tell us something about us.  Jesus is God’s revelation to us.

When we say that Jesus is the Word of God, we are not saying that He is another prophet with a message from God.  He doesn’t have the message; He is the message.  He is the Revealer of God (John 1:18).

If you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus.  Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18 NIV).  To use Paul’s language, Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus is not only a revelation of the Father; He is means to the Father.  Jesus is the only way to the Father.  If you want to go to the Father, you have to get through Jesus.  Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6)

2. Jesus is Eternal

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  John 1:1 says, “In the beginning, the Word was,” not “In the beginning the Word came into being” but, “In the beginning the Word already was.”  It is imperfect tense (Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος).

All of us had a beginning when we were born.  Jesus did NOT have a beginning.  In the beginning, He already was.  We all came into existence when we were born.  He existed before He was born.  We did not exist before we were born.

Jesus existed before He was born.  He existed before Abraham.  He said, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV).  He did not say that before Abraham existed, he came into being.  He said, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  Jesus not only existed before Abraham.  He existed before Adam and Eve.  He existed before creation itself.

3. Jesus is Divine

Jesus is God. One of the strongest proofs for the Deity of Christ in the NT is found in the Gospel of John.  He could not have said it any stronger.  The first verse of the book says that the Word was not only with God; the Word was God.

John’s Gospel begins with the four words “the Word was God” (John 1:1) and the book ends with Thomas calling Jesus “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).

The Gospel of John teaches that he is not just a man.  He is not just a prophet.  He is not an angel; He is God.  He is not just like a godly man; He is God.  He is not just like God; He is God.  He is not just the Son of God; He is God.

Jesus is called God many times in the NT. John calls Jesus “God.”  Paul calls Jesus “God.”  Peter calls Jesus “God.”  The author of Hebrews (whoever he was) calls Jesus “God.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses and John 1:1

Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own translation of their Bible, called The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.  In the NWT, John 1:1 does not say that “the Word was God.”  It says, “The Word was a god.”

There is a reason for their translation. When you read the words, “and the Word was God” in Greek, the word “God” (θεός) does not have the definite article.  Therefore, they believe that the word θεός must be indefinite.  It must refer to “a god” rather than “God.”  In their view, Jesus is a subordinate inferior god but not God Almighty.  Are they right?

They are right about one thing.  They are right that a noun without the article in Greek can be indefinite but there are two important things that they don’t tell you.

The first thing they don’t tell you is that θεός does not have to have the Greek article to be translated “God.”  It can still mean God even without the article (θεός).  In fact, there are four other times in the prologue the word for “God” does not have the Greek article but still refers to the one true God.

John 1:6 says that John the Baptist was a man “sent by God.”  That that does not have the article in Greek (παρὰ θεοῦ) but we do not translate that John was sent by “a god.”

John 1:12 says that, “Those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be called children of God.”  There is no article in Greek there (τέκνα θεοῦ) but we do not translate it, “Those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be called children of a god.”

John 1:13 says, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  The word for “God” in Greek does not have the article (ἀλλ’ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν) but we do not translate it “children who were born of a god.”

Finally, John 1:18 says, “no one has ever seen God.” It also does not have the article in front of the word “God” in Greek (Θεoν οὐδείς ἑώρακε πώποτε) and yet we do not translate it “no one has ever seen a god.”

If the word “God” without the article in Greek means “a god,” that would make the Father a god, because John calls the Father θεός four times in this prologue. All of the Greek scholars will tell you that θεός and ό θεός are used interchangeably in the NT (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, Robertson, Green, Thayer, Abbott-Smith).[2]

The second thing they don’t tell you is that the Bible teaches that there is only one God.  It does not teach that there are many gods.  The Apostle Paul talks about many “gods” and many “lords” but he says that they are SO-CALLED gods (I Corinthians 8:5).  They are gods in name only.  They don’t really exist.

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. (Isaiah 44:6 ESV)

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. (Isaiah 43:10 ESV)

“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39 NIV)

To believe that Jesus is “a god,” you have to be a polytheist.  You have to believe in many gods.  This translation would make perfect sense if it was written by a Hindu or someone who believed in multiple gods.

John was a Jew.  He was a monotheist. He believed that there was only one God.  He knew that no other gods actually existed.  There is no way that he could possibly have written that Jesus was a god.

People called god in the Bible

Jehovah’s Witnesses would immediately reply to this argument that people in the Bible are called “god.”  The word θεός is used of people.  Even in the Gospel of John, θεός is used of people.  If people are called θεός (and they are not God), then perhaps Jesus can be called θεός and not be God.

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? (John 10:31-36 NIV)

Is this a valid argument?  No.  This passage once again is dealing with people who are only CALLED gods (John 10:35).  They are not really gods.  The key is context.  Jesus in John 10 is quoting Psalm 82 and Psalm 82 in the context is dealing with human judges

They are not real gods.  They are only called gods because of their position over others.  Political and judicial figures on earth often can decide life and death.  Because of their position, they act like gods. They are gods in a functional or positional sense.  It metaphorical or figurative, not literal.

John 1:1 is NOT dealing with human judges in the context. People were not even created yet.  The earth was not created.  Why is Jesus called God?  He is not called because of his position but because of his actions.  He is not just in the position of God; He does things only God can do.

1) Only God creates.  Jesus is the Creator of all things.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:3 NIV). In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1 NIV)If you are the Creator, you are God.  Only God can create things.  It is one of the marks of Deity.  We can make things but only God can create something out of nothing by words.

 2) Only God can raise the dead on the last day.  That is what Jesus will do.

See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life (Deuteronomy 32:39 NIV).  Jesus will raise everyone form the dead.  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. (John 5:21 NIV).  Four times Jesus says in John, “I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54)

3) Only God is the judge of the world.  Jesus will judge the world.

“I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds (Jeremiah 17:11).  The NT says that Jesus will judge the world (John 5:21-22; Acts 17:31).  He will determine people’s final destinies.  He is the Creator of the world.  He is the Judge of the world.

4) Only God is the Savior.  Jesus is the Savior.

Jesus is the Savior of the world.  In fact, Isaiah 43:11 says, ‘I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior” (NIV).  Jesus’ name means “savior.”  John 4 says that Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 4:42).  You can only be saved in his name (Acts 4:12).

5) Only God can be worshipped.  Jesus is worshipped

Jesus said, “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10) and yet He received worship (John 9:38).  Only God can receive worship.

Jesus is called God because he is one with the Father (John 10:30). He is called God in John because he is equal to the Father (John 5:18).  He is to be honored just as people honor the Father (John 5:23), which is sheer blasphemy for anyone who is not God.

4. Jesus the Creator

Jesus did NOT create some things.  He does NOT create most things.  He created ALL things.  Through him ALL THINGS were made; without him NOTHING was made that has been made (John 1:3 NIV).  John says this two times in one verse that Jesus is the Creator.  He says it positively and negatively, so everyone gets the point.

This answers some of the cultists.  This verse shows that Jesus is NOT a created being.  He created all things.  If He created all things and He was a created being, He would have had to create Himself which is logically impossible.  Jesus is NOT an angel.  He is the creator of all of the angels.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV).

That verse says that Jesus did not just create all of the angels; He created different classes of angels.  Apparently, angels come in classes. Some have more rank and authority than others.

There are low-level angels and high-level angels.  There are angelic powers (lowest level), principalities (middle level angels), dominion angels which are in charge of other angels (middle level angels) and throne angels, like the cherubim and seraphim (high level angels).  Jesus created them all.

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth.”  The NT says Jesus created the heavens and the earth, so Jesus must be God.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have an answer for this.  They say that God still created everything, but He did it through Jesus.  God is the Creator, but Jesus is the agent of creation.  Jesus is the contractor but there is one problem.  The Book of Isaiah completely refutes that theory.

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself (Isaiah 44:24 ESV)

That does not say that God created the world and used someone else to do it.  This verse says that He did it BY HIMSELF.  It says that He did it ALONE.  Job said the same thing (Job 9:8 NIV).

“Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. 13 MY OWN HAND laid the foundations of the earth, and MY RIGHT HAND spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together. (Isaiah 48:12-13 NIV)

The one speaking here is the Lord Almighty in the context.  That verse does not say that God is the Creator, but He hired someone else to do the world.  No, His own hand laid the foundations of the earth, so if Jesus was the Creator of all things, He must be God.

5. Jesus is Human

The Word became flesh (John 1:14).  He became fully human.  He got tired.  He fell asleep on a boat.  He got hungry.  When he went without food for forty days, he was really hungry.  He got thirsty. He said “I thirst” on the cross.  He could feel pain.  He could experience joy.  He experienced sorrow.  He wept.  He got angry.  He even experienced depression.  He could suffer.  He could die. He could be crucified.

This is John’s Christmas story; the Word became flesh. It is different from the other Christmas stories.  Matthew and Luke begin the Christmas story in Bethlehem.  John does NOT start the story on earth.  He starts the story in heaven.  The first three verses of the chapter take place in heaven.

John does not mention an inn.  It does not mention a manger or any swaddling clothes.  He does not mention the wise men.  He does not mention the great star that led them to Jesus.  John gives us a theology of Christmas.  For John, Christmas is not about a baby being born in a manger.  It is about God becoming man.

The Word became flesh.  William Barclay called that “the single greatest verse in the NT.”[3] It is a shocking statement.  The incarnation is one of the greatest miracles in the Bible.  God became one of us. He stepped down from heaven to earth and became a man.  The eternal Word became flesh.  The Creator of the world became flesh.  The one is said to be God became flesh.

The Greeks believed that this was impossible.  Man could become God but God could not become man, because they believed that the body was evil.  That is what the Gnostics taught (cf. I John 4:2-3).

The Greek philosophers said that the Logos was involved in creation, but they never said that the Word became flesh.  John alone writes that the Word became flesh.  This was RADICAL.  Jesus had to become one of us to save us.

Think how significant this is.  In the OT, God often took human form and appeared to people in a theophany.  There are many theophanies in the OT.  The Incarnation is NOT a theophany.

In a theophany, God appeared in the form of a man and it was only temporary.  At the Incarnation, Jesus became an actual man and it was permanent.  At the incarnation, Jesus became a permanent member of the human race.  He will remain the God-Man for all eternity.

Application for Today

We have seen five truths about Jesus from John’s prologue.  What is the application to us today?   How does this apply to us?  Jesus coming into the world requires a response.   It requires a reaction.

Everyone has two choices.  They can believe or not believe.  They can accept Him or reject Him.  What is our reaction?  Do we believe or not believe?  Do we accept Him or reject Him?  Jesus does not force Himself on people against their will.  We see the responses of many people to Jesus in the text.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11 NIV)

While the majority of the world rejects Jesus and while the nation of Israel rejected him, some have accepted Him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12 NIV).

John tells us what happens when people accept Jesus.  Something happens.  Their identity changes.  They become the children of God.  To be a child of God means that God is our Father and we can have a special relationship with him that others can’t have.

It is an act of GRACE.  We have received “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).  None of us deserve to be called God’s children but when we believe, we become one. We become one not based on anything that we did.

It is an act of LOVE.  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (I John 3:1 NIV).

It is an act of CERTAINTY.  When we believe in Jesus as Savior, we are given the RIGHT to become a child of God.  We have that right because Jesus gives it to us.  It is not just a wish or desire.  It is a right.

[1] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 29.

[2] Samuel G. Green, for example writes, “We find θεός (God) almost interchangeable with ό θεός (Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek New Testament [Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1912], p. 186).  God the Father is called θεός (John 1:6, 18) and Jesus is called ό θεός (Matthew 1:23; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8).

[3] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, (rev), I, p. 66.

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